Summary and book reviews of Absolute Friends by John Le Carre

Absolute Friends

By John Le Carre

Absolute Friends
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Jan 2004,
    464 pages.
    Paperback: Nov 2004,
    464 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

A ferocious new novel from the master: when a man's good heart is his worst enemy. . .

By chance and not by choice, Ted Mundy, eternal striver, failed writer, and expatriate son of a British Army officer, used to be a spy. But that was in the good old Cold War days when a cinder-block wall divided Berlin and the enemy was easy to recognize.

Today, Mundy is a down-at-heel tour guide in southern Germany, dodging creditors, supporting a new family, and keeping an eye out for trouble while in spare moments vigorously questioning the actions of the country he once bravely served.

And trouble finds him, as it has before, in the shape of his old German student friend, radical, and one-time fellow spy, the crippled Sasha, seeker after absolutes, dreamer, and chaos addict.

After years of trawling the Middle East and Asia as an itinerant university lecturer, Sasha has yet again discovered the true, the only answer to life--this time in the form of a mysterious billionaire philanthropist named Dimitri. Thanks to Dimitri, both Mundy and Sasha will find a path out of poverty, and with it their chance to change a world that both believe is going to the devil. Or will they?

Who is Dimitri? Why does Dimitri's gold pour in from mysterious Middle Eastern bank accounts? And why does his apparently noble venture reek less of starry idealism than of treachery and fear?

Some gifts are too expensive to accept. Could this be one of them? With a cooler head than Sasha's, Mundy is inclined to think it could.

In Absolute Friends, John le Carré delivers the masterpiece he has been building to since the fall of communism: an epic tale of loyalty and betrayal that spans the lives of two friends from the riot-torn West Berlin of the 1960s to the grimy looking-glass of Cold War Europe to the present day of terrorism and new alliances. This is the novel le Carré fans have been waiting for, a brilliant, ferocious, heartbreaking work for the ages.

Chapter 1

ON THE DAY his destiny returned to claim him, Ted Mundy was sporting a bowler hat and balancing on a soapbox in one of Mad King Ludwig's castles in Bavaria. It wasn't a classic bowler, more your Laurel and Hardy than Savile Row. It wasn't an English hat, despite the Union Jack blazoned in Oriental silk on the handkerchief pocket of his elderly tweed jacket. The maker's grease-stained label on the inside of the crown proclaimed it to be the work of Messrs. Steinmatzky & Sons, of Vienna.

And since it wasn't his own hat - as he hastened to explain to any luckless stranger, preferably female, who fell victim to his boundless accessibility - neither was it a piece of self-castigation. "It's a hat of office, madam," he would insist, garrulously begging her pardon in a set piece he had off perfectly. "A gem of history, briefly entrusted to me by generations of previous incumbents of my post - wandering scholars, poets, dreamers, men of the cloth - and ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
  • award image

Reviews

BookBrowse

An excellent book on a timely subject.  

Media Reviews
The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani

That Absolute Friends ends up being such a thoroughly implausible performance is less a sign that John le Carré, as often charged, has been unable to adapt his fiction to the post-cold-war world. Rather, it's a sign that he has not chosen in this volume to use his rich and myriad gifts as a writer in the service of storytelling but has instead elected to deliver a blustering and ungainly editorial that turns his characters into a ventriloquist's sheepish puppets.

Kirkus Reviews

Despite a piercing, compassionate portrait of a decent man struggling to keep up with a world in the throes of constant change, le Carre seems this time outpaced by his impossible subject the layers upon layers of real-life duplicity in the world since 9/11.

Booklist - Bill Ott

Starred Review. Le Carre uses Teddy as a mouthpiece for some strong political opinions (the U.S. is described as a hyperpower that thinks it can treat the rest of the world as its allotment), but the novel never becomes the author's soapbox. The human story remains paramount, even if the chilling message is that human stories don't stand much of a chance in the world as we find it.

Publishers Weekly

No reader, whatever his politics, could fail to be moved by the passion and intelligence of le Carré's latest. For those who feel as he does about the war and its consequences, this book will be a special gift.

The Observer (UK) - Robert McCrum

More Greene than Maugham, and bursting with a satirical indignation that is sometimes grimly comic, le Carré brings the thriller face to face with contemporary politics and, in the process, has once again demonstrated his mastery of his chosen genre while at the same time giving lesser, ordinary novelists a masterclass in taking nothing for granted.

Amazon.co.uk - Barry Forshaw

... his best in years, capturing the verve and mastery of the magnificent early work.

Reader Reviews
jim

Absolute Friends
Much of this book is quite good, some of it moving, but it falters badly in the closing chapters. The two old friends, veteran spies and double agents during the Cold War, are finally caught up in a scheme that makes little sense on its face, that of...   Read More

Ian S Baker

absolute friends - absolutely wonderful
A book that can be enjoyed on several levels, as ever with Le Carre, from the quality of the prose, & the depth of the characters, to the complexity of the plot; and yet, unusually for Le Carre, a thinly veiled personal political statement on ...   Read More

Joshua Lim

Absolute Friends
a deep read...was confusing as there are lots of reference to 60s' Europe events and leaders...but after reading it with constant reference with the help of internet...it was great learning...! good storyline..and very entertaining writings by the ...   Read More

L. MacLearn

One of Le Carre's best -- Elegant, vitriolic, masterful
Year ago, my parents loaned me a copy of "Smiley's People", and I was immediately hooked by the elegance of the authors phrasing, the sizzling irony, and the multi-timbral intent that I later came to associate with all his work. In Le Carre's world, ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Absolute Friends, try these:

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Hundred-Year House
    The Hundred-Year House
    by Rebecca Makkai
    Rebecca Makkai's sophomore novel The Hundred-Year House could just have easily been titled ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Valley of Amazement
    by Amy Tan
    "Mirror, Mirror on the wall
    I am my mother after all!"


    In my pre-retirement days as a professor ...
  • Book Jacket: A Man Called Ove
    A Man Called Ove
    by Fredrik Backman
    Reading A Man Called Ove was like having Christmas arrive early. Set in Sweden, this debut novel is ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Arsonist
by Sue Miller

Published Jun. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  132Tomlinson Hill:
    Chris Tomlinson

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.